Weaving Tiny Textiles

Taking inspiration from colorful Maya textiles, in this activity we will explore the art of weaving using recycled materials. Creating textiles/weavings is an important spiritual ritual that has been practiced for thousands of years primarily by Mayan women. Maya weavers typically use cotton or wool but we will be using any type of fabric-like material we can get our hands on plus paperboard. 
This project is inspired by Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by  Elisa Chavarri. Rainbow Weaver tells the story of a young girl named Ixchel who wants to weave on backstrap looms, just as her mother does. After some creative trials with different materials, she succeeded in weaving her first textile using plastic she cleaned up from the roads. This beautiful story of craft and creative reuse shows us that we can use tools for weaving to turn any materials into textiles, with just a little bit of exploration. 
We've added Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris to the Chill Zone at reDiscover Center. Find this book during your next visit for some weaving inspiration or follow along this Read Aloud.

STEP 1 - Gather your Materials

We recommend the list below:

Tools

  • Ruler
  • Screwdriver or awl
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Tape

All of these tools can be found in our Tinkering Toolkit.

Materials

  • Cardboard
  • Paperboard/flyers/junk mail with fun colors
  • Mylar, plastic bags, any other materials that can be cut into thin strips
  • Ribbons/yarn
  • Beads
  • Fabrics
  • Any other long and thin recycled items. (Hint: Ixchel uses long strips of colorful plastic in the story!)

Vocabulary:

Textile: a type of cloth or woven fabric.

Weave: the craft or action of forming fabric by interlacing threads

Ritual: a set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony

STEP 2 - Cut out paperboard for the base of your weaving

Cut out a piece of paper board (at least 5 x 7 inches).

Hold the paperboard horizontally and cut slits from the bottom of the paperboard to about an inch away from the top of the paperboard.

  1. Slits should be about ½ in apart 
  2. Optional: Use a pencil and a ruler to draw the lines before cutting them

STEP 3 - Weave in Materials

Select which material you would like to use first (ribbon, paper, strips of mylar or plastic bags, yarn etc.) and begin weaving the material through the slits alternating over and under.

  • Slide all the way to the top of the paperboard when finished 
  • Continue weaving using different materials until the base is full

Flip over when finished and tape off the sides to secure the ends.

*PRO-TIPS:

  • Alternating materials can create a pattern in your weavings.
  • Using thinner materials such as yarn or ribbon, it will take longer to complete this project but there will be more details.
  • Try lots of different kinds of recycled materials. You can also make strips of plastic and weave them!

About Mayan Textiles

  • Maya textiles are the clothing and other textile arts of the Maya peoples, indigenous peoples of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.
  • Weaving keeps Mayan women connected to their ancestors, and within the sacred and cultural Mayan universe.
  • The back-strap loom (shown below) is a symbol of Mayan beings and is part of the ritual of their daily lives. The weaver uses a strap around her back to hold the threads and manage the tension of the weave with simple back and forth movements of the waist.
  • Today, textiles are largely made from cotton or wool threads, but historically they often used other plant fibers.

Read more about Mayan textiles in these recommended sources:

Exploring Further

Finished your textile and want to try other ways to weave? You can also create a loom using cardboard! Try this method by following this tutorial from Instructables.com.

Other Weavings Explored by Makers at reDiscover

Check out these other textiles created by your facilitators at reDiscover!

Based on the Tiny Textiles Activity Guide developed for K-5 schools by Bella Granados and Barb Noren in 2021.

ADULT HELPERS

For any tips on how to use specific tools safely, visit our Youtube library for Tiny Techniques.

RESOURCES

Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources to access our Tiny Techniques videos and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your costumes, share it with friends and family. Join a Carnaval parade, go trick or treating on Halloween, or just have a costume party at home! Costumes you make yourself are the best, and you'll feel so proud you made it. When you use scraps and recycled materials, it means no new plastics or materials were taken from natural resources. Great job! If you want to share a picture on social media, be sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr. We'd love to see what you made!

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